How Rowans Hospice volunteer Claire used yoga to help her cope with grief

Claire White, a qualified yoga teacher who volunteers at Rowans Hospice’s Living Well Centre every Wednesday, explains how yoga has helped her and about the benefits that both yoga and  accessing support at the centre can provide.

Promoted by Rowans Hospice
Thursday, 12th September 2019, 6:43 pm
Yoga teacher Claire White

I’ve been practising yoga for the past 20 years. Up until the last six years it had been posture-based ‘Asana’, but I’ve learnt yoga is so much more than that.

Six years ago I lost my darling brother John after a very short and unexpected illness. I began to notice that my anxiety levels were at an all-time high. I didn’t want to socialise or even talk to people. I felt guilty, sad, shocked and angry and a whole bunch of other emotion. In fact I actually said to my husband one day: ‘Am I losing my mind?’

Well, it turns out that I wasn’t. John’s kooky sister was just grieving. At times, it seemed as though the ground disappeared. I would stand still, completely lost and not be able to breathe. This is when my new mindful yoga practise kicked in. I was able to feel the earth beneath my feet, slowly focus on my breath and begin to notice my surroundings.

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Practicing yoga and getting support, not just from the usual suspects, i.e. friends and family, but also from those outside my grief bubble, benefited me. People who could just listen without judgment, without comparing their emotions to mine, without me feeling that I needed to try to make them happy. Just like the wonderful people at Rowans Living Well Centre. 

In yoga we call this Asteya (non-stealing). Letting people feel whatever it is they feel and not taking it away from them, even if it is sadness. Yoga is not just about asana (postures). 

Yes, of course postures are part of the yoga practice, but they are in some ways the easiest part. Focusing on the physical body is what we can all relate to, but what we sometimes forget is that the body and the mind are connected. 

In class, much of what I teach is about breath (Prana- life force) and feeling grounded. It’s really the foundation, helping you connect with yourself, to be curious, to be aware, and begin to quieten the mind. Once you begin to ‘feel’, you can learn how to respond.

Self-care and throwing this ‘stoic’ attitude out of the window is key. Self-care, self-love (the practise of Metta), ‘putting the oxygen mask on yourself first’. As what kind of energy are you going to give if you’re burnt out yourself?

These are lessons that I have learned and am learning continuously. It is with love and gratitude that I am able to hold a safe space and pass on some of these things to carers and patients at The Living Well Centre.

Namaste: ‘I respect you for all that you are and I respect me for all that I am.’



Want to find out more about the different volunteering opportunities at Rowans Hospice? Then contact Rowans People Services department today to register your interest in attending the next Volunteering Recruitment Event on Saturday 28 September from 9am–1pm. Email [email protected] or call (023) 9225 0001.



Did you know that we offer a number of different types of complementary therapy to patients and their carers at Rowans Hospice? This service is available thanks to professionally-qualified practitioners who work on a voluntary basis at the Hospice, providing fre

Re treatments ranging from Reiki, Indian Head Massage and Reflexology to Craniosacral therapy as part of Rowans’ offer to both patients and carers attending Rowans Living Well Centre.

Rowans Clinical Director Erika Lipscombe explains: ‘Complementary therapies are a wonderful way for both patients and their carers to relax and unwind.  ‘Each practitioner works closely with the hospice team to ensure that the therapies they use will be safe and not interfere with regular medication. She continues: ‘Working alongside medical treatments, complementary therapies provide positive benefits from helping to reduce stress, tension and anxiety to offering personal physical comfort and providing relief from symptoms.

‘Rowans depends on over 1,400 volunteers, who support the charity right across the Hospice and its retail shops. We are just so grateful for their help.  ‘It is due to our amazing volunteers, from processing donations, helping out on the ward, providing companionship at home to running free yoga classes, that we are able to offer an outstanding standard of responsive holistic care for people in our community who are diagnosed with life-limiting illnesses and their families.'

Erika adds: ‘We cannot thank them enough!’